Supreme Court Nullifies Same-Sex Marriage Licenses
Nearly 3,000 Licenses Voided
PORTLAND -- The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by Multnomah County a year ago.
certificateThe court said while the county can question the constitutionality of laws governing marriage, they are a matter of statewide concern so the county had no authority to issue licenses to gay couples.
The court noted that last November, Oregonians approved a constitutional amendment that limits marriages to a man and a woman. The court also said that long before that vote, state law had set the same limitations on marriages since Oregon became a state.
"Today, marriage in Oregon - an institution once limited to opposite-sex couples only by statute - now is so limited by the state Constitution as well," the court ruling said.
The court left the door open for state legislators to craft an alternative to gay marriages, such as civil unions.
"We conclude that Oregon law currently places the regulation of marriage exclusively within the province of the state's legislative power," the court said.
A day earlier, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will push for a law allowing gay couples in Oregon to form civil unions that would give them many of the rights available to married couples.
Members of the Legislature have been awaiting the ruling to give them guidance on how to proceed on the issue of same-sex couples.
Vermont is the first and still the only state to offer civil unions to gays, passing a law in 2000. Massachusetts has allowed gay marriage since May.
Multnomah County began issuing marriages to gay couples last April, arguing that not doing so violated the state Constitution. A judge ordered the practice to cease about six weeks later, but not before nearly 3,000 same-sex couples had wed.
Marte Sheehan, who married Linda Duchek last March, said she was disappointed with the ruling but had hopes the Legislature would pass a bill allowing civil unions.
"I believe that ultimately the Legislature will do the right thing," she said. :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: :t4: